We hope this first week of the filing season went smoothly for all our members. Thank you to Commissioner Rettig for his filing season kick-off video. We want to recognize our members in Submission Processing, Accounts Management, and the Taxpayer Advocate Service who are all facing historic inventories as this season begins. At the end of 2021, the IRS had more than 24 million returns in its pipeline and roughly 5 million pieces of correspondence. We know that our members and their teams are working as hard as they can to deliver for our taxpayers.
PMA has been busy this month meeting with members of Congress, industry groups, and the media to make clear the challenges you are facing and to remind lawmakers that these backlogs are problems of their own making. We are working to demonstrate why unstable funding hampers effective tax administration, connecting the National Taxpayer Advocate's concerns to congressional inaction, and responding directly to Congress as they make demands of the IRS without providing any remedies for its problems. We also had a great discussion with members of tax professional community this week and found we have a lot of common ground in our desire for more effective legislation.
Too often we hear from members who find themselves navigating proposed discipline, a TIGTA inquiry, or EEO complaint without this important coverage. Sometimes, bad things happen to good managers. Are you emotionally, financially, and legally prepared to defend yourself if you are the subject of an adverse administrative action, disciplinary proceeding, or civil lawsuit?
Even if the allegation is baseless, the ordeal can be immensely stressful, frightening, and defending yourself can quickly drain your bank account and take a personal toll on you and your family. PMA's longtime partner, FEDS Protection can alleviate your worries by providing you with legal services and indemnity protection to defend against allegations arising from your federal position. All PMA members are eligible for FEDS Protection, but your policy must be effective prior to an incident resulting in an allegation, claim or suit for coverage to apply.
FEDS Protection policies can be purchased easily online or by phone and you can pay your premiums through payroll deductions if you desire. PMA members enjoy a discount on policies by using promo code PMA (case sensitive). Another important thing to note: managers can get 50% of the insurance premium reimbursed by the IRS. This means that a manager could be protected for 30 years for less than $4,500, and you get free coverage for three years into your retirement. For context, hiring an attorney to represent you in something as simple as a grievance over your PMRS rating costs $7,500 or more. There's no reason to skip this crucial protection!
The Individual and Business Master Files (IMF, BMF) celebrate their 60th birthday this year! PMA wants to help Congress and the American public appreciate how badly the IRS needs modernization funding. Part of our IMF/BMF@60 campaign will feature facts and context to help frame the true age of our primary computing database. As a reminder, the IRS still relies on the oldest continually operating database in the entire federal government.
According to data from the Human Capital Office, more than 72% of the IRS workforce is younger than the IMF and BMF. In other words, the majority of you came to work at the IRS and were expected to use a computer system that was already 20, 30, 40, or 50 years old when you were in training. The IRS employs fewer than 335 people who were old enough to be out of high school at the time the IMF and BMF were deployed in 1962 - this technology was "cutting edge" only for that small population of people.
When did you begin serving at the Internal Revenue Service? How old were these databases on your first day?
This month, Congress has been focused publicly on voting rights and Senate procedure. However, some good work for the Civil Service is taking place. PMA was proud to partner with our friends Congressman Gerry Connolly and Senator Brian Schatz, along with NTEU, to endorse the FAIR Act. This bill would provide federal workers with a 5.1% pay increase (4.1% base, 1% locality) in 2023. We will keep you updated on the bill's progress.
We also joined Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Rob Portman, and NTEU, to endorse the Honoring Civil Servants Killed in the Line of Duty Act, which modernizes and increases death benefits and funeral allowances for federal workers killed while engaged in public service. We are grateful to Senator Sinema for thanking us publicly for our support on her Twitter account this week.
The legislative elephant in the room is the continuing resolution (CR), which expires on February 18th. Earlier this month, Congress was making progress on spending bills for FY22 but there remains significant areas of disagreement in those negotiations. When we were most recently updated, the tone was to prepare for yet another CR as they finalize those bills. We are in regular contact with members of the Appropriations committees and continue to make clear the negative impact on the IRS, on our members, and on taxpayers caused by the lack of formal funding.
The most significant pending legislation for the IRS is the beleaguered Build Back Better Act, which is currently dead in the Senate. This week, conversations resumed on how to move forward to accommodate the Senate majority's diverse views and some House members are pushing for a March 1st deadline. The good news is that everyone we speak to in the congressional majorities supports the $80 billion funding provision in the bill for the IRS. There are disagreements on other major components yet we remain hopeful that we can continue to advocate for this sorely needed funding.
PMA's 2022-23 merit scholarship program application period is underway. Students can start an application anytime and must submit no later than our deadline: Thursday, March 24, 2022, at 3:00pm Eastern. PMA awards ten $2,000 scholarships annually and we are proud to do so for another school year.For complete program information, downloadable program instructions, and a link to the application, please visit PMA's official charity and scholarship partner FEEA, www.feea.org/scholarships.
When you apply, be sure to review this article to help avoid accidentally being flagged for plagiarism, which may result in your application being disqualified. In this helpful video, FEEA's Senior Program and Operations Director Niki Gleason shares some things to watch out for, along with the most common reasons applicants are disqualified.
Not applying but still want to be involved? We're always looking for volunteers to help read scholarship applications! Applications are reviewed virtually through our scholarship portal. Volunteers spend an average of 10 hours completing their reviews between early April and mid-May. Complete the volunteer application today.
Working in this hybrid modality for so long means that many of our mentorship relationships are suffering or nonexistent. It can be difficult to mentor young people in this remote world, but it isn't impossible. We need to remember that, of the more than 7,600 leaders across the IRS, nearly 900 are under age 40 and can benefit from your years of institutional knowledge. More than a third of all IRS leaders are over age 60, suggesting we need to be mentoring the next generation of frontline employees to join management's ranks.
We'd like to share three web-based learning opportunities you can complete for no cost, and at your own pace, through our friends at the American Management Association:
Communicating Effectively in a Virtual Environment: This webcast is specifically designed for government employees and will discuss the challenges of communicating effectively when your team is physically separated. We’ll explore strategies that government managers need to know in order to increase productivity, create clear communications, choose technology and more.
How to Keep Your Team Resilient During Constant Change and Uncertainty: Specifically tailored for government, this web event will address how recent events have forced many professionals in government agencies to cope with rapid, drastic changes, not to mention uncertainty about what the future may hold. Having a resilient mindset enhances your ability to transform challenges your agency is facing into growth, and helps you leverage leadership skills to your best advantage. Get practical techniques to reframe uncertainty, adapt to tough challenges, and build team resilience to embrace new pathways to advancement.
How to Solve the Management Puzzle: As agencies prepared for 2020, no one anticipated the severe changes that were about to occur, abruptly shifting priorities toward a state of emergency. As a result, public sector management has faced overwhelming disruption. Overnight, stay-at-home orders changed where and how their staffs worked. Confronted with this harsh new reality, and the momentous global change that is occurring, the federal workforce continues to be faced with uncertainty. Everyone in government must be flexible, resilient, and capable of picking up the pieces of what remains and attempt to achieve goals and meet accountabilities. The question facing the public sector is whether management is prepared to drive mission outcomes as they endeavor to manage their teams effectively in today’s tumultuous environment. Experience this expert-led discussion to explore these important and timely concerns.
The federal government is sending four at-home test kits to each household for free. You can still sign up to receive yours by visiting www.covidtests.gov. At the same time, the CDC is advising we upgrade our face masks to either KN-95s or N-95s. For its part, the federal government is distributing complimentary N-95 masks through partnerships with grocery stores, pharmacies, and community health centers.
OPM issued a directive to FEHB plans outlining their obligation to pay for at-home tests. For those of you with Medicare coverage, please note that the laws governing Medicare prohibit reimbursement for self administered diagnostic tests. You can only seek reimbursement for at-home COVID tests from your FEHB plan.
The Safer Federal Workforce Taskforce issued updated isolation and quarantine guidance after the CDC's announcement which generally shortens the timeframes one must isolate after testing positive for COVID-19. The FAQs were finally published on Friday. You can read the updates to quarantine and isolation, vaccinations, leave, testing, and signage.
Discipline related to the vaccine mandate is paused while a case makes its way through the courts. Still, it's never too late to begin your vaccine series - to find a vaccine appointment near you, visit www.vaccines.gov or www.vacunas.gov.
PMA supporter and federal benefits expert Tammy Flanagan wants to help you consider the ramifications and potential costs of opting into Medicare Part B. If you're 65 or older and retired, you probably see all of the ads for Medicare Part B coverage and wonder whether it's right for you. For federal retirees, this is complicated by your ability to carry your FEHB coverage into retirement, regardless of whether you enroll in Part B, which covers medically necessary services and preventive care. Tammy's article will help you think through the costs association with this election and the important caveat for those of you covered by TRICARE.
For 2022, the IRS has new Employee Referral Bonus program to help recruit candidates for hard-to-fill positions. This new program pays current eligible employees cash when they refer candidates for employment to designated hard-to-fill positions who are then selected and remain with the IRS for one year. A list of the current designated hard-to-fill positions is available on the ERBP SharePoint application.
After current employees submit an ERBP referral, the new hire will verify the referral on their entry-on-duty date. The Performance Management and Recognition office will then confirm the verification and manage the payout process. The ERBP pays a referral bonus of $500, which will be paid to eligible referring employees in installments of $250 after the referred employee has completed six months and one year on duty. There is no limit on the number of ERBP awards an eligible employee may receive.
As with other awards, employees must clear misconduct and tax compliance screenings to be eligible. Please see IRM 6.451.1 for details. Upon completion of this screening, the business unit will submit the award for processing. For more information about the ERBP and to access the automated forms for referrals and hard-to-fill designation requests, please visit the ERBP SharePoint site. Additional guidance can be found in the Interim Guidance or in the FAQs. If you have any questions about the program, please submit them directly to the ERBP mailbox.
OPM issued finalized guidance to agencies on implementing the $15 per hour minimum wage for the federal workforce. This means those in roles at the GS-1, GS-2, GS-3, and GS-4 levels will get a raise by January 30th to meet the new regulations. There are 67,000 federal workers who earn below $15 per hour.
According to the guidance, the new special rate for GS-1, step 1, the lowest pay grade in the General Schedule, will be set at $31,305 this year. GS-2 through GS-4 will be based on a 2% increase over the pay grade below them—GS-2 step 1 is $31,931 per year; GS-3 step 1, $32,570; and GS-4 step 1, $33,221.